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Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne’s Revolutionary Scramjet Engine Successfully Powers First X-51A Simulated Flight


WEST PALM BEACH, Fla.,– Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne (PWR), a United Technologies Corp. [NYSE: UTX] company, along with its X-51A team members -- U.S. Air Force, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), NASA and The Boeing Company -- successfully demonstrated operation and performance of the revolutionary X-1 scramjet engine in the first simulated flight at Mach 5 of the X-51A.

“The X-1 engine is a breakthrough in hypersonic technology that will ultimately provide unprecedented range and speed for PWR customers,” said Mike McKeon, PWR manager of hypersonics and advanced programs. “The performance of X-1 in a test environment has exceeded our predictions, and is a major step toward bringing hypersonic flight into practical use.”

The X-1 demonstrator engine, designated SJX61-1, is a hydrocarbon-fueled scramjet engine featuring X-51A flight hardware, including a Full Authority Digital Engine Controller (FADEC) to orchestrate complex fuel controls and transitions, and a closed-loop thermal management system in which JP-7 fuel both cools engine hardware and fuels the engine’s combustor.

Testing was conducted at NASA Langley Research Center’s 8-Foot, High-Temperature Tunnel in Hampton, Va., from December 2006 through April 2007.

“This successful test is a critical step in the development of the X-51A integrated propulsion system. In addition, this marks the first time ever that the scramjet engine has been tested in a simulated ‘full flight’ propulsion configuration, which includes a Boeing designed full vehicle fore-body/inlet and nozzle,” said Charlie Brink, U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory’s X-51A program manager.

The X-51A Flight Test Program plans to demonstrate scramjet engine technology within the Mach 4.5 to 6.5 range with four flight tests beginning in 2009. The program will set the foundation for several hypersonic applications, including access to space. The X-1 is the first of two ground test engines planned in the X-51A program.

Additional tests this year and early 2008 will verify engine performance and operability across the X-51A flight envelope and characterize the closed-loop thermal management system.

The X-51A Flight Test Program is a collaborative effort between the U.S. Air Force, DARPA, NASA, Boeing and Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne.


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